Letter: Tourism, tar sands don't mix in South Portland
Maine is called “Vacationland” for a reason. Our pristine environment is what makes us a tourist destination; 23 percent of jobs in Maine are tourism related, a higher percentage than Florida, Vermont, New Hampshire, or Massachusetts. Tourism brings more than $15 billion into our economy and generates $414 million in tax revenues (most paid by non-residents).
If tar sands oil comes into Maine through a 63-year-old pipeline, it would go past Lake Sebago seven times with the accompanying risk of an oil spill contaminating our water source. When tar sand oil spills, it sinks to the bottom and cannot be cleaned up. In South Portland it would be burned off through two 70-foot smokestacks at Bug Light, emitting toxins (including arsenic, lead, mercury and benzene) into our air. Then it would be loaded onto tankers, risking an oil spill in Casco Bay before being shipped to foreign markets. ExxonMobil, which owns 76 percent of the pipeline, would add to its big bucks while our health is jeopardized and our important industry – tourism – is put at risk.
Who will want to visit southern Maine after an oil spill? What will happen to all the businesses that rely on tourism for their lifeblood? This disaster can be prevented. We need to have our voices heard and pass the Waterfront Protection Ordinance in November.